Making Work-Life Flexibility Work

Are your employees seeking work-life flexibility? While having flexibility in when, where and how you work is increasingly becoming the norm at companies of all sizes, a new study, the Work+Life Fit Reality Check, reveals there are still some roadblocks in the way.

work life balance

Among the findings of the study, conducted by the Flex+Strategy Group:

  • Eleven percent of respondents said that their use of work-life flexibility increased and 76 percent said it stayed the same during the recession.
  • While in the recovery, 10 percent thought their level of use of work-life flexibility would increase and 82 percent felt it would stay the same.
  • Compared to this time last year, 66 percent report they have the same amount of work-life flexibility, and 17 percent saw an increased amount.
  • Sixty-six percent believe employee health, morale and productivity suffer as a result of having no work-life flexibility.
  • Those who worried about making less money due to improved work-life flexibility decreased from 45 percent in 2006 to 21 percent this year.
  • Those who worried about a boss saying no to more work-life balance decreased from 32 percent five years ago to just 13 percent this year.
  • Those who worried others wouldn’t think they worked hard if they had work-life flexibility decreased from 39 percent in 2006 to to only 11 percent this year.
  • The biggest obstacle to work-life flexibility was lack of time/increased workload, cited by with 29 percent.

Flex+Strategy group offers some tips for employers to help get the most benefit from work-life flexibility. First, while employees tend to perceive their workload as an obstacle to work-life flexibility, you can help them understand how flexible arrangements can actually help them handle the workload. “Increased workloads may be here to stay but work-life flexibility can help employees strategically manage their lives while getting the work done,” the report says. Flextime and telework are key ways employees can still be productive while managing life outside of work.

Second, make sure lingering fears aren’t keeping employees from taking advantage of work-life flexibility. Even though these concerns have decreased dramatically since the study was first conducted in 2006, there are still respondents who didn’t improve their flexibility because:

  • 21 percent thought they’d make less money
  • 16 percent were concerned they’d lose their jobs
  • 13 percent worried that their boss would say “no”
  • 11 percent felt others would think they don’t work hard, and

If you’re going to offer flexible arrangements in your workplace, make sure everyone understands how the system works and that managers at all levels buy in.

Finally, as Flex+Strategy advises, keep in mind that work-life flexibility needs to be, well, flexible: “Include both informal, day-to-day flexibility as well as formal plans that officially change when, where or how work is done.” In fact, the survey found the most commonly used type of flexibility was “some type of day-to-day, ad hoc” flexibility (62 percent), followed by formal flextime (46 percent) and formal telework (33 percent).  As a small business owner, your company is well positioned to leverage that type of  day-to-day flexibility.

Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.